Building on a budget

11 April 2019 Potton News

Tips for Building on a Budget

Working on a laptop with coffee
No matter how big or small your build allocation, it’s still a budget that you need to adhere to, and keeping within this is key to making sure that you don’t run out of money before your home is finished.

Any experienced self-builder will tell you that when building your home, it’s inevitable that some products or services will cost more than expected. When this happens, you must have a few tricks up your sleeve to balance the budget.

So if you think you have what it takes to build a house, here are a few tips and tricks to help you budget effectively.

Consider Scale and Complexity

Before you even think about applying for planning permission or starting the build itself, you need to carefully consider what you want to build. Scale and complexity are the two biggest killers when it comes to budgets and, subsequently, building a home that is larger and/or more complex than you can really afford is often the root cause of most budget disasters.

At the planning stage, think about how you can save square metres without compromising the form and functionality of the design. Also, consider the complexity of the build. Simplifying construction details often improves design aesthetics as well as reduces construction costs.

Add Value to Your Build

Every self-builder brings value to their build, but some are better at this than others. Although you may have never built before, this is not a barrier to you adding value to your home. Instead, think about what transferable skills you have and how you can use these to save money.

For example, if you have time and good organisational skills, consider project managing the build yourself, rather than paying for a professional Project Manager to do so on your behalf. Not having construction experience isn’t necessarily a problem, as good tradespeople are always happy to share their insights.

Make Timely Decisions

Additional expense often occurs as a result of poor decision making. Always try to be one step ahead of the game and work out what you want, along with the answers to tradesman’s questions, before they start work on-site.

The key is to always be prepared and ready to make decisive decisions as and when needed.

Avoid Changing Your Mind

Potton self build
Changing your mind isn’t a problem when it’s in good time, but changing your mind when the work is in full flow can prove expensive, particularly when alterations have to be made to work that has already been done. The trick is to know what you want and stick to it.

Don't Fight the Flow

Understanding the “natural” build sequence and following it will certainly help to keep your budget on track. Some people will tell you that building quickly will save you money, and while this may have a degree of truth to it, speed should never come at the expense of the sequence and flow of operations needed to build efficiently — and safely.

Always ensure you understand what must be completed before the next stage starts and plan ahead to make sure materials and trades are available to keep the build continuously moving forward.

Buy Wisely

Self build home construction
There’s a skill in buying materials and appointing contractors, but it’s often overlooked and can have significant consequences in terms of your budget. There are the obvious things to do, of course, such as get multiple quotes and check references, but much more important is to conduct a quality enquiry in the first place.

Be clear about what you want (and what you don’t) and try to second guess the assumptions that suppliers and subcontractors will make when putting together their quotations.

Assumptions are usually expensive allowances for unknowns, but if these can be addressed, the quotation should be lower as a result. Focus on the interfaces between trades and think about what one trade will leave for another to follow and if everything has been included for the next trade to continue.

Having to resolve these omissions on site will usually be at an additional cost, so read and understand quotations carefully to make sure you know what’s included and what’s not.

Source Materials Yourself

Sourcing materials yourself can offer significant savings, as long as you buy the right things at the right price. Although contractors will want to offer competitive quotations, they are unlikely to invest hours finding unique items you want at the best price. Instead, they will most likely use their usual merchant. If you are prepared to do the leg work and find where those special products can be sourced at the best prices, significant savings can be made as a result.

Also, think about sourcing materials second-hand, ideally from other self-builders who may have over-ordered for their projects. You can also look for generic branded products via eBay or Facebook marketplace, but remember to make sure the condition and specification are what you need — otherwise, a great saving can turn into an unnecessary expense.

Remove the 'Hassle Factor'

Contractors offer good prices to people who are organised and allow them to do their work quickly and effectively. If your contractor can turn up to the site and easily complete their work while earning the profit they expected, they will not be looking for extra money from variations and claims.

The tip here is to return the help to those who are building your home and make sure you and your site are always sufficiently organised for everyone to do their work well. If you do this, your budget is likely to face fewer challenges and you will also enjoy a few fringe benefits, such as trades turning up when you want them as they’d rather work on your site than the scruffy disorganised project down the road.

Manage Your Waste

Waste material (what’s left over at the end) is terribly expensive. Not only does it cost you to buy it in the first place, but you will also incur money by storing it, moving it two or three times and then disposing of it — probably in skips at the end of the build.

Always keep a close eye on the quality of materials being ordered and thoroughly check what you need to do the job. Depending on the material involved, “make up” loads may be available to you to enable you to shore up the final quantities needed to complete the job, so always take advantage of this facility.

Never have a skip conveniently sat in the corner of the site waiting to be filled. If you do, you will probably find trades “tidying” up by throwing unwanted but perfectly good materials into the skip. Ask the contractors to remove their own waste or allocate an area for waste and surplus materials to be stored for sorting prior to filling the skips. You never know, you might find a few things that can be reused or sold on eBay.

Buy a Trailer

This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but investing in a trailer is a great move. Having a trailer with a decent load carrying capacity is absolutely essential when self-building and earns far more than it will ever cost.

Not only will you be able to collect materials from eBay purchases, but more importantly, you will never be stuck waiting for a delivery that would otherwise delay progress on site.

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